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Luke Joeckel vs. Jared Allen
The second overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Luke Joeckel played just five games last season before an ankle injury ended his rookie campaign.
He began last season as the team's right tackle before moving over to the left side prior to his injury. He has mentioned this offseason how important going up against veteran Chris Clemons in practice has been for his growth this offseason.
“The best thing for my growth is going against a great pass-rusher like that every day in practice,” Joeckel said in regard to Clemons, via Vito Stellino of Jacksonville.com.
While Clemons' 58 career sacks are nothing to scoff at, Joeckel will be facing a much more difficult task on Thursday night against Jared Allen.
Allen is set to make his Chicago debut after not playing in the team's first preseason game following the birth of his child.
Allen has amassed 128.5 sacks in his 10 NFL seasons and should get a series or two against Joeckel Thursday night.
There is little Allen needs to prove, but it will be a matchup to watch as Bears fans will get their first real look at their new defensive end.
Blake Bortles vs. Chicago's Safeties
After years of suffering through the poor quarterback play of former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert, the Jaguars used their third overall pick in the 2014 draft to select quarterback Blake Bortles.
Chad Henne started the team's preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Bortles stole the show, going 7-of-11 through the air for 117 yards with no interceptions, and caught the eye of Albert Breer of the NFL Network:
When asked if Bortles could see some time with the first-team offense against the Bears, head coach Gus Bradley shot down the idea.
“I wouldn’t count on it this week,” Bradley told reporters, via Jackonsville.com's Hays Carlyon.
With Bortles expected to receive reps with the second team, a number of combinations in the Bears secondary should have an opportunity to square off against him.
The team started its preseason opener with Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray at the strong and free safety positions, while Adrian Wilson and Brock Vereen received playing time with the second unit.
The safety competition will become even tougher now that Chris Conte and Craig Steltz have returned to practice, via the team's sideline reporter, Zach Zaidman:
Regardless of who is out on the field when Bortles gets his opportunity, those safeties will have a chance to prove their worth to the team going up against a guy fighting for a starting job.
Shea McClellin and Jon Bostic vs. Marcedes Lewis
After struggling to find his way as a defensive end, the Chicago Bears decided to move 2012 first-round pick Shea McClellin to linebacker this offseason.
With the move, McClellin has been competing with second-year man Jon Bostic at the strong-side linebacker position.
Both received ample playing time last Friday against the Philadelphia Eagles, but, according to Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen, both struggled in pass coverage:
McClellin and Bostic both struggled against athletic Eagles tight end Zach Ertz and will get another opportunity to match up against an athletic tight end in Marcedes Lewis.
Lewis combines size and speed and will be a good test for both linebackers, particularly in the red zone.
Bears' X-Factor of the Week: Jimmy Clausen
Despite being listed as the team's third quarterback on the depth chart, Jimmy Clausen impressed Friday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, via Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen:
After going 7-of-13 for 150 yards and two touchdowns on Friday, head coach Marc Trestman announced after Tuesday's practice that Clausen will be the first quarterback off the bench Thursday night against the Jaguars, via ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson:
Prior to Clausen's Bears debut, Trestman was excited to see him in action after his strong showing so far in training camp.
“I’m excited to see him just like we all are,” Trestman said to the media about Clausen, via Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com. “He’s had a good camp. He’s picked up the system very quickly. He’s throwing the ball well overall."
He proved against the Eagles that he is comfortable in Trestman's system, and with a strong showing on Thursday night, he just may solidify himself as the team's No. 2 quarterback.